Emergency Preparedness Tips for Earthquakes

What to expect during an earthquake

Small or moderate earthquakes

  • These can last only a few seconds and represent no emergency risk.
  • Ceiling lights may move and some minor rattling of objects may occur in your home.
  • You may feel a slight quiver under your feet if you are outside.
  • If you are close to its source, you may hear a loud bang followed by shaking.
Approximately 5,000 mostly small earthquakes are recorded in Canada each year.

Large earthquakes

  • These can last up to several minutes and constitute a natural disaster.
  • The ground or floor will move, perhaps violently.
  • Whether far away or close to the source, you will probably feel shaking followed by a rolling motion, much like being at sea.
  • If you are far away from the source, you might see swaying buildings or hear a roaring sound.
  • You may feel dizzy and be unable to walk during the earthquake.
  • Furnishings and unsecured objects could fall over or slide across the floor or be thrown with damaging force across the room.
  • Unsecured light fixtures and ceiling panels may fall.
  • Windows may break.
  • Fire alarms and sprinkler systems may be activated.
  • Lights and power may go off.

During an earthquake

If you are indoors:

Drop! Cover! Hold On!

  • Stay inside. Do not run outside or to other rooms during shaking
  • Drop under heavy furniture such as a table, desk, bed or any solid furniture.
  • Cover your head and torso to prevent being hit by falling objects.
  • Hold onto the object that you are under so that you remain covered.
  • If you can't get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall.
  • If you are in a shopping mall, go to the nearest store. Stay away from windows, and shelves with heavy objects.

If you are outdoors:

  • Stay outside.
  • Go to an open area away from buildings. The most dangerous place is near exterior walls.
  • If you are in a crowded public place, take cover where you won't be trampled.

If you are in a vehicle:

  • Pull over to a safe place where you are not blocking the road. Keep roads clear for rescue and emergency vehicles.
  • Avoid bridges, overpasses, underpasses, buildings or anything that could collapse.
  • Stop the car and stay inside.
  • Listen to your car radio for instructions from emergency officials.
  • Do not attempt to get out of your car if downed power lines are across it. Wait to be rescued.

Avoid the following in an earthquake

  • Doorways - doors may slam shut and cause injuries.
  • Windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures. You could be hurt by shattered glass or heavy objects.
  • Elevators - if you are in an elevator during an earthquake, hit the button for every floor and get out as soon as you can.
  • Downed power lines - stay at least 10 meters away to avoid injury.


After an earthquake

  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to help prevent injury from debris, especially broken glass.
  • Check your home for structural damage and other hazards. If you suspect your home is unsafe, do not re-enter.
  • Unplug appliances and broken lights to prevent fire starts when the power is restored.
  • Stay away from brick walls and chimneys as they may be damaged or weakened and could collapse during aftershocks. Do not use your fireplace if your chimney has been damaged as a fire may start or gases could be released.
  • Do not light matches or turn on light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Use a flashlight to check utilities and do not shut them off unless damaged. Leaking gas will smell like rotten eggs.
  • If your home is equipped with natural gas: Call your gas provider immediately to report any concerns or if you smell gas (rotten egg smell). Shut off gas valve if you know how. Once the gas is turned off, don’t turn it back on. Only a licensed gas technician can turn the gas on safely.
  • If tap water is still available immediately after the earthquake, fill a bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off. If there is no running water, there may be water in the hot water tank (make sure water is not hot before touching it) and toilet reservoir (not the bowl).
  • Do not flush toilets if you suspect sewer lines are broken.